If you’re trying to choose between a few different beaches to visit during your time in San Diego, you may be torn between two popular options: La Jolla or Coronado Island. Both these destinations are similar — they are filled with quaint boutiques, beautiful beaches, and fabulous restaurants — but they each have unique features that set them apart.
To help you decide if La Jolla or Coronado is better for your vacation, read through this post for a thorough analysis of both destinations!
La Jolla vs. Coronado: Location
If you are staying in Downtown San Diego, getting to La Jolla or Coronado Island shouldn’t be an issue, since both destinations are between 15–30 minutes away.
La Jolla is an oceanfront neighborhood located 12 miles northwest of Downtown San Diego. It’s located between Mission Beach & Pacific Beach and Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.
It is separated into two parts: La Jolla Shores, which is a more outdoorsy, quiet part of La Jolla, and the Village of La Jolla, which is more touristy and where popular attractions, like La Jolla Cove and the Children’s Pool, are located.
Coronado Island is a beautiful beachy destination just under seven miles south of Downtown San Diego. You can cross the Coronado Bridge to get to the island, or you can take the Coronado Ferry from Broadway Pier or Firth Avenue Landing on either side of Seaport Village.
Coronado Island isn’t actually an island. There is a small strip of land that connects Coronado Island to the southernmost part of the state and is filled with beaches and gorgeous hotels, like the Silver Strand State Beach and Loews Coronado Bay Resort.
Coronado Island vs. La Jolla: Hotels
You can find plenty of beautiful hotels to stay at in La Jolla or Coronado Island. However, while one destination has more options to choose from and better prices, another has a famous hotel that you can stay in for a true “bucket list” experience.
La Jolla is a large neighborhood, so you can find plenty of hotels, resorts, and other great places to stay while you’re here at a reasonable price.
La Valencia Hotel offers gorgeous murals, chic dining, and an outdoor pool that overlooks La Jolla Cove. It is also within walking distance of great dining, shopping, and the best activities in La Jolla. If you’re looking for something more “off the beaten path,” The Lodge at Torrey Pines is a stunning five-star resort with an on-site golf course, upscale dining, a beautiful pool, and other luxurious amenities.
If you’re looking for something more affordable, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites is a great option.
Coronado Island is a smaller location, so the hotel options are few and far between — there are between 15–20 hotels on the island, and many are inns, motels, and older accommodations. If you want to stay on Coronado Island, especially during popular travel times, like the spring or summer, you’ll need to book your accommodation plenty of times in advance.
If you’re looking for an amazing place to stay, the Hotel del Coronado should fit the bill. This historic hotel was designed as a National Historic Landmark in 1977 and hosted celebrities, movie stars, and presidents. Today, you can book a room at this hotel that overlooks Coronado Beach and enjoy the fabulous amenities, like restaurants, swimming pools, and more.
Other options for hotels on Coronado Island include the luxurious Loews Coronado Bay Resort on Silver Strand Beach and the sophisticated Hotel Marisol Coronado.
La Jolla or Coronado Island: Beaches
One thing is for certain — both La Jolla and Coronado Island have gorgeous beaches that are consistently ranked as some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. However, the beaches have different features to offer, so you may prefer one destination over the other.
La Jolla offers a wide range of beaches with different terrains — from fluffy white sand to rocky tidepools. La Jolla Shores Beach is widely considered one of the best beaches in San Diego for sunbathing, swimming, and water sports, while La Jolla Cove is another popular location that is great for spotting seals and sea lions.
However, those aren’t the only beaches in La Jolla. Windansea Beach is a stunning beach that’s also ideal for surfing, Boomer Beach is perfect for bodysurfing and offers views of La Jolla Cove, and the La Jolla Tide Pools are a great place to find sea creatures, like crabs and fish, hiding in the rocks during the low tide.
Coronado Island has several beaches, just like La Jolla, but the options are more similar and limited. However, Coronado Beach, the main beach on the island, is a gorgeous beach with fluffy sand, calm waves, and gorgeous views of the Hotel del Coronado. This popular beach is the perfect place for laying out and getting a tan.
Other beaches on Coronado Island you can visit are Silver Strand State Beach and Glorietta Bay Beach, though they are less popular than Coronado Central Beach.
Coronado or La Jolla: Activities
There are plenty of fun activities you can enjoy in La Jolla or Coronado Island — both on the land and sea. However, depending on the types of activities and attractions you enjoy, you may enjoy one destination over the other.
Generally speaking, La Jolla is filled with more things to do than Coronado Island. While you are here, you can visit cultural attractions, like the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASC), and the La Jolla Historical Society.
However, you can also enjoy tons of water sports, like sea kayaking, snorkeling, paddle boarding, and surfing at La Jolla Cove, Windansea Beach, and La Jolla Underwater Park. You can also watch the sea lions and seals tanning at popular locations, like La Jolla Cove, the Children’s Pool, and Seal Rock.
Aside from hanging out at the beach, there aren’t quite as many activities to keep you busy on Coronado Island, but that doesn’t mean visiting this island isn’t still a ton of fun. Of course, you must tour the Hotel del Coronado — be sure to take a walk through the lobby and the garden courtyard — and pop in and out of the boutiques on Orange Avenue.
For more sporty activities, you can go kayaking or cruising in San Diego Bay, on the opposite side of the island as the beaches, rent a beach cruiser and go biking around the island, since the terrain is relatively flat, or go golfing at the Coronado Island Municipal Course.
La Jolla or Coronado Island: Shopping
La Jolla and Coronado Island are both fabulous destinations for shopping. Read which stores you should check out below!
Girard Avenue and Prospect Street are where you can find most of the shopping in La Jolla. On these streets, you can find plenty of popular retailers like Lululemon and Ralph Lauren, but also boutiques and local businesses, such as Warwick’s, one of the best independent bookstores in San Diego, and Bendls La Jolla, a bespoke clothing experience.
Another great place to shop in La Jolla is Westfield UTC, an outdoor shopping mall with popular luxury retailers like Pottery Barn, Nordstrom, and Kendra Scott.
Coronado Island is filled with 50+ local stores and boutiques that are lined up and down Orange Avenue. Here, you’ll be able to find clothing stores, home décor, and souvenir shops — you can truly find something for everyone when shopping on Coronado Island.
Bay Books Coronado and Seaside Papery are some fun spots to check out here. There are also tons of shops in and around the lobby of the Hotel del Coronado. However, for the best shopping experience, start at the Hotel del Coronado, walk up and down Orange Avenue, and pop into any store that looks interesting to you. You’re sure to find a fun one!
Coronado vs. La Jolla: Dining
If great food is what you are looking for, you can’t go wrong with either La Jolla or Coronado Island. These are just a few of the best places to eat in each location for breakfast, lunch, and dinner — and what you should order there too!
While you’re in La Jolla, The Cottage and Cove House are both excellent locations for breakfast and brunch. Better Buzz La Jolla is also a great place to grab a coffee and a light breakfast, like an acai bowl.
If you’re looking for somewhere for lunch and dinner, head to Duke’s La Jolla for a casual, Hawaiian-inspired meal (try the hula pie!) or visit NINE-TEN Restaurant & Bar in the Grande Colonial for a more upscale dining experience.
There are tons of great places to eat on Coronado Island right off Coronado Beach. The Henry is a great place to eat at any time of day — you can grab a coffee and head to the beach, or you can sit down for a fancier dinner. The Islander, right next store, is a great spot for fish tacos or island fare, and if you’re looking for a nice Italian dinner, Rosemary Trattoria or Garage Buona Forchetta are both great places to stop.
Stop by Coronado Brewing Company for a brew, and Nado Gelato Café is a fantastic place for handmade gelato on a warm, sunny day at the beach.
La Jolla or Coronado Island: Walkability & Parking
Wondering what the parking situation is like in La Jolla and Coronado Island? Here is the scoop:
La Jolla is spread out between two locations — La Jolla Shores and the Village at La Jolla. The Village at La Jolla is very walkable and is where you’ll find popular attractions, like La Jolla Cove, La Jolla Tide Pools, Prospect Street, and plenty of dining and shopping. However, La Jolla Shores is much more spread out, and you’ll need a car to get to most attractions here from the Village at La Jolla.
There is limited free street parking in La Jolla, so if you want to snag a spot, you’ll need to arrive early. Otherwise, you can find plenty of parking garages in the Village at La Jolla for $10–$20 per day. If you visit La Jolla on a Sunday, all the street parking is always free.
Unlike La Jolla, the popular attractions on Coronado Island are within walking distance of each other, so once you find a parking spot, you can stay put for the day. If you don’t have a car, you can even take the ferry from Downtown San Diego, and once you arrive, you can walk or bike around the island for the day.
However, free street parking is hard to come by (especially on the weekends), so be sure to arrive early if you want to secure free parking. The parking garages on the island can charge up to $50 per day for parking since it’s so limited, so if you can’t arrive early, be prepared to pay!
FAQ: La Jolla or Coronado Island
Is La Jolla or Coronado better?
Both La Jolla and Coronado Island have lots to offer, so if you can visit both during your visit to San Diego — we say go for it!
However, if you only have time to visit one destination, Coronado Island is better for hanging out at the beach, shopping, and dining, and La Jolla is a great place to visit if you love outdoor recreation, like kayaking, surfing, or hiking, or are looking for more things to do, like going to art museums or aquariums.
Is La Jolla worth visiting?
Yes, La Jolla is worth visiting during your trip to San Diego or Southern California.
It’s only a short drive away from the city, but you’ll be able to enjoy miles of gorgeous natural landscapes, great restaurants, fun shopping, and tons of outdoor adventures, from surfing and snorkeling to hiking and biking. Plus, you can also see the seals and sea lions that call this beachy destination home!
Is it worth it to go to Coronado Island?
Coronado Beach is one of the most gorgeous beaches you can quickly access from Downtown San Diego, making a trip to Coronado Island well worth the visit. In addition to your time at the beach, you can explore the historic Hotel del Coronado, shop at the boutiques on Orange Avenue, and enjoy some spectacular restaurants, breweries, and bars while you’re here.
What Do You Think: Is La Jolla or Coronado Island Better for Your Vacation?
Whether you choose to visit Coronado Island or La Jolla during your visit to San Diego or on your Southern California Road Trip, you are bound to have an awesome time. Hopefully, if you were torn between which to visit, this analysis helped you decide!
So, what do you think? Will you visit La Jolla or Coronado Island next — or will you visit both? Let me know in the comments!
Still Deciding Between La Jolla or Coronado? Save This Post for Later!
Check out these other posts about La Jolla, Coronado Island & San Diego to help you plan the perfect trip!
Coronado sounds like the perfect place to visit and your tips and photos were so helpful! Thanks for putting this list together. Will definitely use!
Thank you, Tessa! I am so glad you found this helpful 🙂
I think we will do both!
I had never heard of either, but now want to go to both! Thanks for the inspo Brittany
The Hotel Del is amazing, but I live in La Jolla, so that’s my pick!